Protests Called For Saturday Against

Protests Called for Saturday Against US Troop Presence

Wire services and Arab News report:

“In the main southern city of Basra, three masked men shot dead an officer in the new Iraqi Army as he was dining Thursday, an army spokesman said. The same night, four US soldiers were wounded in the northern town of Shurgat when insurgents hurled a hand grenade at them, a US military statement said. Another US military statement yesterday said a US Marine died two days ago in a vehicle accident during combat operations in the former rebel stronghold of Fallujah, west of the capital. Also, a US soldier was killed by a bomb in northern Iraq yesterday, the US Army said. The soldier was killed around noon when a homemade bomb exploded near Hawijah, in Kirkuk province, a statement said without providing further details.

Newly installed Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said Friday that Iraq needed technocrats and nationalists in high office. According to another official from the United Iraqi Alliance, Jawad al-Maliki, the Shiite religious parties will get the ministries of finance, petroleum, and interior. (The Interior ministry is like the US Homeland Security plus FBI, i.e. domestic security). The Sunni Arabs will be given the defense ministry, but ex-Baathists will be purged from it. The Kurds had badly wanted the petroleum ministry, but appeared to have lost out and have been offered the ministry of planning as a consolation prize.

Shiite religious nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr and some Sunni clerics have called for a demonstration at Firdaws Square in downtown Baghdad for Saturday against the continued presence of US troops in Iraq 2 years after the fall of Saddam Hussein on April 9, 2003.

As Sadrist clerics traveled Friday from the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala up to Baghdad, they came under sniper attack just south of Baghdad, and one was killed and two wounded killed. Sunni guerrillas have targeted many Shiites in the region south of Baghdad.